Author: EmilyMair

Designing Stickers in Illustrator

Design ideas and design process

 Idea 1: For my first design I decided to use a lightbulb to show the generation of ideas by graphic designers, as that is most likely the podcast’s target audience. I knew that I wanted to include letters or type of some sort as the podcast talks about type. I began by typing out letters, converting them to outlines and then trying to warp the letters into a lightbulb shape. I didn’t think this was very successful as the letters looked awkwardly squashed and the amount of white space was too much for the lightbulb shape to be clear enough.

I then tried drawing the shape of the lightbulb with the pen tool and using it creating a layer mask with it. This worked but I still didn’t think the shape was clear enough, so I image traced and then expanded a photo of a light bulb so that I could place this over the top. I then went in with the white arrow tool to clean some stray points up.
This is my favourite design as I think it represents the content of the podcast well without spelling it out, and when seen from far away still works.

Initial idea
Arranging letters
Experimenting with gradient fill on idea 1
Layer masking
Design 1


Idea 2: For idea 2 I wanted to try a simpler design based on type. I typed out ‘Typography and Graphic Communication’ and then experimented with typefaces, leading and tracking. I reduced the leading quite significantly to make the text appear as one unit and because it allows the text to be bigger within the same dimensions. I changed the colour of ‘typography’ so that the words could be differentiated. I then experimented with different compositions of the pen using the transform tool, but I settled with just one pen drawing a line as it was the clearest and allowed for a fair amount of white space, stopping the sticker looking crowded.

Experimenting with idea 2
Experimenting for idea 2
Design 2


Idea 3: I decided to go for the classic circle shape for this sticker. Using the pen tool I created some organic shapes and filled them with the freeform gradient for a bright and almost 3D effect. I used the layer mask to cut a circle out of it and then experimented with various typefaces for the ‘T&GC’. I went with a simple serif typeface in the end, so that it is easy to read and brings a touch of classiness to the sticker – sans serif looked more basic and since the other designs are sans serif I thought it would add some variation to my designs.

Creating freeform gradients in organic shapes
initial idea for text on idea 3
Experimenting for idea 3
Design 3
Final Ideas with cutcontourkiss and cutcontourperf layers.


Software Tutorials

I had used Illustrator a fair bit before so I knew the basics but I wanted to explore the dropdown menus further. I read a tutorial on how to create icons, from which I learnt how to use the ‘Effect > Distort and transform > Transform’ function. I tried this out on Design Two, and although it didn’t make the final design I think I will find this tool very useful in the future, particularly for creating circles made up of icons. I also used the dropdown menus to outline strokes and to lock and unlock objects, for which I have now learnt the keyboard shortcuts.

I then watched a tutorial about making stickers in Illustrator ( which reminded me about using swatches to get consistent colour schemes, and using linear gradients for tonal effect.

The next tutorial I watched was about freeform gradients ( ). I learnt about how you can use either points or lines to create 3D effects and multicoloured, organic gradients. I also watched several tutorials on using the pen tool (, which led me to ‘The Bezier Game’ ( ). This encourages you to practice making various shapes using the pen tool in as few clicks as possible – I found this very helpful and I have become a lot more confident with this tool now. I then combined my knowledge of freeform gradients and the pen tool to create organic shapes filled with gradients, before layering them up and layer masking them over a circle.

In the future I would like to learn more about the pathfinder tool and work out which icon does what, as I usually just use trial and error to achieve the effect I want, which is more time consuming than it needs to be.


Resources for research and inspiration

Firstly, I looked at some sticker designs on Google to get a feel for proportions and the sort of images used. A common factor was that they used colour and large text where it needed to be readable; circles also seemed to be a popular choice when it came to shape.

I had a flick through Behance to gather some inspiration on typefaces, colour schemes and how to layout different elements, for example after looking at one of the articles I knew I wanted to make use of white space, which I did in Design 2. I was then looking at my boards and decided to have another look at  Vasjen Katro’s work, a designer I really like ( This is where I got the idea for the freeform gradients as he uses a lot of fresh 3D effects which look similar, with bright/pastel colour schemes.

A  topic I would like to explore further is effects on type – for example text looking worn or ripped or textured. I think this is probably a job for Photoshop, after the text has been made in Illustrator. Typography is my main interest and this  would add another element to my stickers and would allow me to create stickers that are purely typography with effect over it – I felt that my other stickers were too boring without some sort of illustration as well.  On my Google search I saw some that used just type with an effect on it and I thought they were very effective designs, so I will look into how this is done.